In the heat of southern Texas, it is hard to believe that Autumn is soon coming. My Pinterest home board is full of autumnal crafts where you shouldn’t need anything but nature lying just outside your door. Sigh . . . I have no colored leaves or pine cones. However, I have discovered a secret and I’ll let you in on it:
Yes, again, the Church, our mother, who is tasked with nurturing our holy imaginations and providing us the comfort of life rhythms, gives us a celebration on September 29th that is not dependent on where you live.
Michaelmas can be a magical day for little children. In our house, we prep for the day. I tell them the story of the Great Heavenly Battle for the whole month of September.
Long, long ago, before Adam and Eve sinned, there was a Great Heavenly Battle. . . .
After about a week, my 5 and 3-year olds are play acting the story. Later, I may gently turn their imaginative play into something slightly more structured. Depending on the personalities and ages of the kids, one may try a scene they can play-act for Daddy, a puppet show, or simply work on narrating the story to tell to family and friends.
I love to put Raphael’s St. George and the Dragon (pictured above) on display where they do their crafts. Their pictures, too, may then have angels and dragons in it. Those get a special place on the wall. We listen to Johannes Brahm’s hymn to the archangel Raphael who is also celebrated on this day.
Of course, an icon of St. Michael goes on our little oratory table. I marvel at how long they can study a new icon. This year, my 5-year-old excitedly asked, after a 5-minute study, “So, angels are warriors? Is my guardian angel a warrior too?” With the approach of Halloween, I will move his icon above our door for the month of October.
As I weave the story of the Great Battle this month, I have certain gospel points to emphasize. First, the Great Battle was the beginning of a long war between good and evil, God and Satan. St. Michael was certainly brave, but he had the assurance that God was fighting on his side! Now, millennia later, we can have even greater assurance because of Jesus. He is the light in the darkness and because we are His people, that light is inside of us. But, just as St. Michael and all the other angels had to choose sides, we have to choose, too, by being obedient to His word. Remember, Lucifer was a great angel and all his demons were once angels. St. Peter tells us to, “Watch and pray, for the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1. Peter 5:8) So, we pray. We pray because talking to Jesus fans that light inside us and makes our desire and love for Him into a roaring flame.
Of course, all of this will culminate on September 29th when we will feast on the traditional roast chicken (I will not be making goose!), roasted carrots, bread shaped like a dragon, and an angel food cake topped with blackberry sauce. We will tell the story of the Great Battle to new people sitting at our table even if it is just Dad. We will sing, pray, show off artwork, and maybe throw in the fun legend over dessert of when St. Michael threw Satan out of Heaven. Didn’t you know he landed in a blackberry bush and cursed it?! That is why we don’t eat blackberries after September (and we won’t).
Anna-Kathryn Kline is a military spouse who uses the liturgical year to provide stability and familiarity to her home. She is the privileged stay-at-home mother of three little girls and spends her days rediscovering her childhood by coming alongside her girls in the pursuit of wonder.